Check out this great article from the News and Record about immigrants naturalizing on the 4th of July in Winston-Salem. It was a very special and emotional day for many!
WINSTON-SALEM — Eighty-three-year-old Maria Tomasa Orellana has waited a lifetime to become an American citizen.
And after Thursday’s naturalization ceremony, her wait is finally over.
“She always wanted to become an American, but she was scared because she doesn’t speak English,” her daughter, Alicia Orellana said. “But she always knew this is the best country to live in.”
Maria Tomasa Orellana, a native of El Salvador, has lived in the U.S. for 23 years.
She was one of 50 people from 28 different countries to become American citizens on Thursday.
“It was a very touching ceremony and I am just so proud of her,” Alicia Orellana said.
Countries from five continents were represented at the ceremony, with natives of Mexico, Niger, France, Venezuela, and China on hand.
The third annual event, attended by about 400 family members, friends and spectators, took place in Salem Square, the site of the first official July 4th celebration in the U.S. in 1783, according to Old Salem Museums and Gardens.
“It’s really meaningful for them to be naturalized in the same spot where colonists from all over became independent hundreds of years ago,” said Jennifer Kiger, marketing director at Old Salem Museums and Gardens. “It definitely makes the entire day that much more special.”
For Jorge Jaimes, who was born in Mexico, American citizenship means a chance to finally feel like he fits in.
“I can’t describe the feeling of finally being an American after spending so long suffering for being different,” he said. “People lower you and think you’re beneath them just because you’re not a citizen of this country.”
Jaimes, 26, said he looks forward to being able to vote and now plans to go to college and start his own business.
“I’ve lived here 20 years and I’m finally at the finish line,” he said. “This will be a new start for me.”
And Luis Lobo, executive vice president of BB&T and keynote speaker at the ceremony, said not to forget the struggles the new citizens have had to overcome to get to today.
Born in Costa Rica, Lobo told the story of how his father brought his family to the United States so he could pursue higher education.
“Just like my father became a hero to our family, you will be the hero to your descendents and have changed their lives forever,” he said, commending them for taking the risk in coming to the United States.
Lobo said one reason the ceremony is so exciting is because it is a result of many years of persevering and waiting.
Amritha and Prashanth Karkera have waited 15 years for this day.
“We were willing to wait for however long it took to get citizenship,” Amritha said. “This country has given us more than we could’ve ever asked for, so this is a very proud moment in our lives.”
Prashanth, who lives in Greensboro with his wife Amritha, said the United States has been a great place to raise their daughter and they have made many friends along the way.
When asked where they were from, Prashanth responded: “Yesterday I would’ve said just India. But today I say we’re from India and the United States of America, the best country in the world.”